Judicial Election Intimidation On Display in San Diego

Imagine living with a justice system where powerful judges intimidate would-be challengers, threatening careers and clients if anyone dares run against a seated judge. Well, there are those who say (quietly, very quietly of course) that California has just that system, and they point to a San Diego race as the latest example.
It’s unusual for mainstream media outlets to give more than passing coverage to superior court judicial races, but The San Diego Times Union recently broke the story: “A candidate challenging a longtime Superior Court judge in the June primary election says she is being pressured to drop out by a legal organization she belongs to and by some judges.”


The newspaper, perhaps oddly sidestepping the larger story of judicial electoral intimidation, still reports that federal prosecutor Carla Keehn “… is one of five people who have filed to run against judges on the local bench — an unusually high number of challenges to incumbent jurists. Typically judges are re-elected without opposition, as few lawyers will take on a sitting judge for fear of judicial enmity.”


To make matters even more interesting, Keehn is openly gay and some of the pressure comes from a group she belongs to, with the leadership writing here that “… openly challenging a sitting judge can be seen by some as undermining the support and relationship we have worked so hard to build.” Keehn said she understood it to be pressure to drop out, but will not do so. Read the report here.